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green toys

green toys

Bella Luna Toys Wins Green America’s Seal of Approval

I am over-the-top excited to announce that this month Bella Luna Toys was awarded the Green America Business Seal of Approval!

The seal is presented to businesses that go beyond product and service quality to set the highest standards in environmental sustainability and social justice, and work to solve, rather than create, environmental and social problems.

In order to be considered, I was required to fill out an extensive questionnaire documenting Bella Luna Toys’ eco-friendly practices and listing the countries of origin and fair trade and/or fair labor practices of all the toy companies whose products we carry.

Once this application was reviewed by Green America, I was sent a list of further questions and requests for documentation and certifications for our Fair Trade toys and documentation of sustainable forestry for our wooden toys.

After a months-long process, I was delighted to finally receive the news that Bella Luna Toys had been granted the prestigious Seal of Approval and permission to display Green America’s logo on our website!

Reader’s Digest Names Bella Luna Toys “Best Website for Fair Trade Toys”

And if that wasn’t enough good news for one month, last week  Reader’s Digest named Bella Luna Toys as one of  the “Best Websites for Fair Trade Toys.”

The article was posted in February on the magazine’s website. The editors wrote: “Fair Trade is a social movement trying to reduce poverty in developing countries by encouraging fair global trade practices and ensuring an equal and fair partnership between marketers and producers.”

Fair Trade Toys

Sarah's Silks Workers in China

What This Means For You

  • It means that when you shop for Waldorf toys at Bella Luna Toys, you are assured that all the toys we carry are made in the USA, Europe and Canada, or are Fair Trade made in other parts of the world using Fair Labor practices.
  • All of our wooden toys are made from certified sustainable forests, or from salvaged and recycled wood.
  • That in mindfulness of the earth’s limited resources, we use recycled gift wrapping paper, eco-friendly ribbon, and reuse boxes and packing materials, and recycle our own paper waste. In addition, Bella Luna Toys purchases credits to heat our office and warehouse space with renewable energy.

Hope you’ll join me and the thousands of individual members of Green America by choosing to shop with businesses who are committed to supporting the environment and social justice.

Are there any new green, eco-friendly or fair trade toys that you think should be offered at Bella Luna Toys? Leave your suggestions here.

One commenter will be chosen at random to win a FREE set of Eco-Eggs natural egg dyeing kit from Eco-Kids! (Winner will be chosen Friday, March 4 at 9:00 a.m.)

Congratulations to Krista H., winner of a free set of Eco-Eggs natural egg dyeing kit from Eco-Kids!

And many thanks to all of you who left your comments and great suggestions. Many of your ideas were already on the list of new products to add this year, and others gave me some terrific new ideas.

Keep your eyes peeled for many new Waldorf toys, all natural toys, and wooden toys to be added in the coming weeks and months at Bella Luna Toys.



Ostheimer Wooden Waldorf Toys
Education, Natural Toys, Play, Waldorf Dolls, Waldorf Education, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys

What Are Waldorf Toys?

When I am asked by a new acquaintance what I do for a living, I explain that I am a former Waldorf teacher and that sell and share my love of Waldorf toys. I am frequently met with a blank stare, in which case I know that more explanation is needed.

I will go on to explain that the kinds of toys we carry are wooden, eco-friendly and organic toys. You know, “green toys.” This gives most people a better idea, but there is so much more to it than that. Beyond simply being natural toys, what exactly makes a toy a “Waldorf toy?”

Waldorf Flower Fairy Dolls

Nourishing to the Senses

Since families have become more eco-conscious in recent years, toymakers are producing many more eco-friendly and natural toys to meet the increasing demand. But Waldorf schools, which originated in the 1920’s, have always provided children with toys made of natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and cotton.

Yes, these kinds of toys are good for the environment, but most importantly, they are good for children! I’ve written previously here about the importance of sensory experience in early childhood, so one important hallmark of a “Waldorf toy” is that it be nourishing to a young child’s senses.

Imagine the sensory experience of a toddler cuddling a rigid, hard plastic doll with synthetic hair, and then cuddling a Waldorf doll stuffed with wool, covered in cotton with a head of soft mohair. Not only is the Waldorf doll more aesthetically pleasing, but its softness and warmth will having a calming and soothing effect on a young child.

Beautiful to Behold

Waldorf toys should also be beautiful to behold, because sight is as important as touch. We want to nurture children in a beautiful environment and their playthings should be beautiful as well. By surrounding children with beauty, we are not only contributing to their sense of wellbeing (or “sense of life,” as Rudolf Steiner referred to it), but also developing their aesthetic awareness and appreciation.

Toys that are made from natural materials, with rich, natural colors, and that are lovingly handcrafted are inviting, and contribute to a child’s “sense of life.” A child is much more likely to feel reverence for a beautiful handcrafted toy and care for it accordingly than he is for a mass-produced plastic toy. As Plato so eloquently recognized, “the most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”

Inspiring the Imagination

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, suggested that children’s playthings should be largely unformed in order to stimulate a child’s imagination. What does this mean? Waldorf toys are often simple, without a lot of detail.

Waldorf teachers believe that toys should be simple and open-ended. Baskets of tree branches (like our Tree Blocks), play silks, stones, pinecones and shells all can be transformed into a myriad of objects. During a typical morning in a Waldorf kindergarten, one would likely see shells become money; wooden blocks become food; a small piece of tree branch become a telephone; silks become skirts and veils; and so on. By giving children objects that are not highly formed and detailed, they can easily become more than one thing, and give children’s imaginations free reign.

If you are familiar with a Waldorf doll, you no doubt have noticed that such dolls have minimal facial features, and sometimes no faces at all! As is the case with most aspects of Waldorf education, the reason is not arbitrary. Waldorf dolls have minimal or no faces in order to encourage the imagination of the young child—to cultivate her “inner picturing” abilities.

DSC_0069

Again, think of a hard, formed plastic doll, with a highly detailed face, and a fixed, frozen smile. If a young child is playing “house” and caring for this baby, it is hard to imagine this baby to be sad or crying. Children want to imitate real life. Real babies smile and laugh, but they also look sad or cry when they are hungry or need changing. If a doll has just two eyes, and a suggestion of a mouth, the child is more easily able to imagine this baby expressing a range of emotions, living richly in her imaginative life. For the same reason, Waldorf puppets have only the barest suggestion of faces.

Imitation: Play is a Child’s Work and Toys Are Her Tools

Children naturally want to imitate adults and their daily activities. As Waldorf teachers, we strive to be adults “worthy of imitation” and bring consciousness to our gestures as we engage in the daily tasks of living, such as cooking and cleaning in the classroom. Knowing that children will imitate our activities we attempt to work in an unhurried and careful way.

Bringing consciousness to one’s daily activities at home, and providing children with child-sized versions of household items such as a play kitchen, wooden play dishes, and tools such as a broom, or dust pan and brush will allow children to fully engage in their imaginative imitation of daily life, and build real life skills as well.

Playing House

As I’ve tried to stress to parents over the years, choosing toys is not about “good toys” vs. “bad toys.” Rather, it’s about bringing new consciousness to selecting children’s playthings. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good? Does it leave room for the imagination? Will it inspire imitative play? If you can answer yes to these questions, you will be providing your child with all the tools needed for years of healthy play!

Have a question about Waldorf toys? What are your favorites? In the coming months, Bella Luna Toys will be greatly expanding its inventory, and I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Play, Toy Safety, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys

The Care and Feeding of Wooden Toys

 

We love wooden toys because they are safe, natural, and durable, but also because they are nourishing to a young child’s senses. They feel good and, with their variety of natural colors and grains, are beautiful to behold! Not only will wooden toys provide many years of play for your children, but with proper care, they will also be enjoyed by your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Wooden Toy Cement Truck

But how should one care for wooden toys to make them last? Because they are made from a natural, living material, they need special care and loving attention.

Simple cleaning with a mild solution of soap and water (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap) or a vinegar solution will keep your wooden toys safe and germ-free. Vinegar has mild disinfectant properties. Be sure to avoid bleach, detergents or abrasive cleansers, which will dry out the wood, leading to cracks and breakage, and will also lighten the surface. Use a damp cloth, soft brush or a sponge to wipe clean. It is best not to submerge wood in water (and never put it in the dishwasher).

Wooden Toy Dish Set

Wood needs to have its natural moisture replenished in order to prevent it from drying out, warping or cracking. The best way to keep your wooden toys hydrated and well-nourished is with a natural oil or wax, like plain mineral oil or beeswax polish, like Bee Luna Natural Beeswax Polish. Beeswax polish is not only completely non-toxic and safe for children, but it also smells like honey, further adding to the sensory deliciousness of wooden toys!

Bee Luna Natural Beeswax Polish

Like all wood, wooden toys can be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. Be careful not to leave them outside overnight or for extended periods of time. Heat, sun and humidity can all affect the appearance and shape of wooden toys, and worse, lead to cracking, swelling or breakage.

With proper care and feeding, the wooden toys you purchase for your child today will be enjoyed for generations, delighting other children and families decades after the plastic toys end up sitting in the bottom of a landfill for all time.

What are your favorite wooden toys? Leave a comment and let me know!

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